Prior to the comprehensive alimony reform statutes, even the most experienced lawyers, as well as judges, had very little “bright line” guidance on when and how much alimony / spousal support was appropriate. Alimony orders were susceptible to significant variations from county to county, and within some counties from judge to judge. As a result of the alimony reform statutes, litigants, experienced attorneys, and even judges now have much more guidance in ascertaining when alimony is appropriate, how much can and should be ordered, and how long the payments will last.
Notable reforms include that alimony has been divided into four categories. Certain categories only apply to marriages of a specific length of time, or other unique circumstances. With respect to general alimony, the statutes set forth maximum durational limitations dependent on the length of the marriage. The statutes also limit the general alimony payments to a recipient’s needs or a proportion of the difference in the parties’ incomes.
Of particular import, the statutes now explicitly prohibit the courts from devising an alimony order from the same income stream that a child support order was devised from. While judges remain free to compute alimony first, then child support, obligors still benefit from this prohibition. First, the alimony is deducted from the obligor’s gross pay at the end of the year, and taxes on the same must be paid by the recipient. Second, the alimony payments are then counted as income to the recipient when the child support is calculated (the guidelines look at the combined incomes when devising a child support amount).
In practice, many cases involving minor children will no longer have any alimony component when the case initially resolves, whereas prior to the alimony reform statutes it would have been a highly contested issue. All of that said, it is also true that the alimony reform statutes do leave room for the courts to deviate from the presumptions contained therein. But doing so will require something much more unique than one spouse feeling entitled to more alimony than the statutes call for, or the statutes would have little impact.
If you are considering or have been served with a complaint for divorce involving alimony, or want to explore the possibility of modifying an existing alimony order, please contact an experienced divorce lawyer at LaFountain & Wollman, P.C., for a consultation today.